Martin Carr reviews Gotham’s season 3 finale…
An hour and a half of back to back episodes combine with viral mayhem as villains running amok, people get shot or stabbed and Gotham goes to the dogs. Between Fish Mooney, Penguin and Nygma vying for supremacy, while Hugo Strange is arrested, kidnapped or bounced from pillar to post things do get a little complex plot wise.
With The Court of Owls gone, Gordon infected and Lee constantly phoning trying to arrange a lovers tryst, you would be forgiven for thinking these writers had preoccupations about tying things off. With ninety percent of Gotham crazed thanks to the weaponised Tetch virus, most of ‘Destiny Calling’ is focused on tracking down an antidote. Gordon is up against it and Bullock stands by his partner as he slowly begins giving in to the hatred brought out in him. McKenzie handles this transition well continually at odds with his inner demons, trying to retain reason in the light of aggressive urges.
Elsewhere Tabitha and Butch remain loyal yet distrustful of Barbara as she slowly loses touch with reality in her search for power. Whereas Penguin uses the situation to his advantage within Fish Mooney’s inner sanctum, working with her rather than undermining the status quo. Pinkett Smith is once more in her element here turning up to revel in past glories and remind people why having Fish Mooney back is no bad thing. In comparison to Nygma and Barbara there is no contest, as Pinkett Smith chews her way through scene after scene to great effect.
Meanwhile Bruce continues his mental battle against Alfred as he searches out this season’s big bad, who has been manipulating events from the shadows for some time. Their reveal and the ultimate revelation is short-lived however, as Pennyworth turns up with his gun putting pay to anymore meditational navel gazing. Locked up after the death of another mentor Alfred, Gordon and Bullock look on while Mazouz stares blankly through the glass. We see for the first time some real steel from this actor as he steps up to fulfil his destiny, being neither aware nor concerned with the outcome of his actions. As usual Pertwee plays opposite Mazouz with determination, pathos and more than a little emotional heft.
Playing to the dress circle in theatrical terms Pennyworth barters, pleads, cajoles and persuades until the final moments trying to convince Wayne of his reality. These moments are played well and both actors bring a degree of intimacy into proceedings, amongst the gunfire, carnage and infected populous. Before leaving us on a knife-edge and synching smoothly into ‘Heavydirtysoul’.
Kicking into the final forty-five minutes and change of this DC finale bullets continue to fly, hostage negotiations come a cropper and double cross follows triple cross as Gotham reaches its convoluted conclusion. With Jarvis Tetch holding the key and Gordon mere minutes away from turning, people start going for the throat with scant regard for consequence.
Between Penguin, Nygma, Barbara, Tabitha and Butch there is a sense of continual one-upmanship triggered by pent-up frustration and a desire for domination. With Firefly and Freeze in tow Penguin maps out a contrived plan guaranteed to find Nygma grasping at straws come final credits. While Tabitha, Butch and Barbara come to a mutually beneficial arrangement which is likely to see only one of them walking away.
Elsewhere Gordon and Lee try to work out their differences with a bunch of syringes, one ‘Brief Encounter’ pastiche and some side panel punching from an over medicated McKenzie. In terms of a satisfying conclusion this storyline felt more than a touch fantastical. In terms of giving Thompkins and Gordon closure I can see the necessity for it, but just feel that it smacked of contrivance. Alfred and Bruce have built up such a strong bond which comes through in the performances between both actors that their arc completion makes perfect sense. The idea that Wayne has come through adversity, experienced separation and values his guardian more as a result. All of that makes sense.
Even the twisted relationship which exists between Barbara, Tabitha, Butch and our boys in denial holds more water, because there was continual cause and effect in play. What Gordon and Lee lack is believability which stems from her actions and perceived guilt after Mario’s death. For that reason this Gotham finale feels fudged to a degree even if the Mazouz payoff is worth its proverbial weight in gold. Let us hope the greenlit fourth season brings disparate threads together and starts strong come autumn 2017.